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Ryanair Reborn? - now with Poll at no extra charge

by Frank Schnittger Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:57:35 PM EST


Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

Ryanair has long been a source of a national embarrassment in Ireland. On the one hand it is one of the few truly successful Irish owned corporates which have succeeded in growing global in scope. On the other hand, it's corporate ethos, anti-union attitudes, and poor customer service and public relations have been... well embarrassing is perhaps too kind a word.

Recently the controversial Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary, has apparently had a blinding revelation on the road to Damascus. He has come to realize what many of us have known and been saying for years: his persona and the corporate culture that has grown from it have become a threat to Ryanair's ongoing growth and development.  What was once a successful business model for a brash small start-up taking on the staid and expensive national flag carriers and aiming mostly for the young back-packer market - is now not helping Ryanair to continue to expand market share from its current position as the largest airline in Europe.

Many travelers now refuse to fly with Ryanair almost on principle; some because of its anti-union attitudes, some because of some bad experience with rude staff, some because the Ryanair website has become extremely awkward and irritating to navigate, and some because they do not wish to be herded like cattle and have to endure uncomfortable seats. This has meant that Ryanair passenger numbers have been rising more slowly than its major rival, Easyjet, despite the fact that Easyjet generally charges higher fares on its routes. Whilst trying to portray Ryanair's often low fares as a virtue, in reality, they have become a necessity if Ryanair is to attract passengers from other airlines - even when others are considerably more expensive.


Ryanair still has a long way to go in the public relations department, however. It has recently launched a series of high profile international legal actions against a nascent wannabe Ryanair pilots trade union, against individual pilots who questioned its safety policies, against Channel 4 and the Daily Mirror for reporting those concerns, and against anyone who makes derogatory comments about Ryanair on the internet anywhere in the world. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the European Tribune and I were to receive some kind of legal threat on foot of this article. One pilot was sacked for speaking publicly about his safety concerns.

I can, to some degree, understand Ryanair's frustration about the focus on it's safety record. It is quite remarkable that one of the largest airlines in the world has never lost a passenger or had a serious crash. Ryanair has a policy of buying only new, well proven, Boeing airplanes, and as a relatively young airline this means it has a fleet of relatively young and fuel efficient planes. It also flies almost exclusively in Europe where safety standards tend to be high. However news media and hostile websites highlight every incident involving Ryanair aircraft, even if they are not generally unusual or frequent for an airline with a fleet of over 300 aircraft.

But if you do your best to piss everybody off, be they staff, passengers, regulators, airport operators or news media, you can hardly expect a very sympathetic response in return. And this is the nub of the problem with Ryanair: In many respects it has revolutionized air travel for a country like Ireland, previously dependent on very expensive flag carrying airlines. Air travel is now relatively accessible for the less well off, and it has forced flag carriers like Aer Lingus to become equally competitive. I well remember flying to Geneva to visit a friend in Switzerland, and the air tickets were considerably cheaper than the quite short subsequent train journey. Ryanair's policy of flying into smaller, less busy airports - often quite remote from the advertised destination (see Frankfurt Hahn or Paris Beauvais) - means its arrival on time record is almost unrivaled, and yet its customer service has become a byword for shoddy. Just why is this, and does it have to be this way?

You can be cheap and efficient without having to be cheap and nasty, and Ryanair is beginning to show that it at least recognizes it has a major problem. Navigating the Ryanair website had become an ordeal with difficult to decipher "Recaptcha" barriers even if you only wanted to check a price, punitive charges for any mistakes made in the booking process or hand luggage size, and huge numbers of expensive add on services which you had to actively deselect if you only wanted to book a flight. There were numerous high profile stories of school groups stranded in far of places because the students did not have the cash for unexpected and exorbitant charges, or bereaved people being charged exorbitant fares when having to make sudden arrangements in tragic circumstances.

In addition, advertised prices were often misleading once all the unavoidable extras had been added in. The boarding process can be something of a nightmare for people with young children as you have to queue early to get seats together, and if you are to find room for your hand luggage in overhead compartments not designed to be big enough to carry all hand luggage if the flight is near full and everyone carries their maximum allowance.

Now, at least, you can pay extra for the privilege of "priority boarding" and can even book seats with extra legroom on some flights. The constant sales pressure can be irritating, as can the upright non-reclining hard seats and garish decor. But these are relatively minor gripes which you can accept as part of the "low cost experience".

Some of the proposed changes address some of the problems, but it remains to be seen if the "Ryanair experience" becomes a more pleasant one. Traveling is a stressful enough experience, especially for older people or people with children, without feeling that Ryanair is there to make life more difficult.

As well as needing to improve the objective quality of its services, Ryanair needs to improve the subjective experience as well. People need to feel welcome, relaxed, safe and well cared for. Staff need to feel rewarded and appreciated, their concerns recognized and acted upon, their rights upheld. It is difficult to see Ryanair's image ever improving substantially whilst O'Leary remains at the helm: He has become too associated with supercilious contempt for all and sundry. Ryanair may never receive whatever credit they deserve for positive changes whilst he remains at the helm.

But we may be witnessing the beginnings of a corporate turnaround, and at least Ryanair do have the scale and technology to make a good product that sells. Ryanair have just ordered 175 new Boeing 737-800 Aircraft so they need to broaden their appeal if they are to remain a successful commercial organization.

PS Some of the comments have already expressed some very negative attitudes/experiences with regard to Ryanair. I would be interested in getting a sense of what turns people off most, so I have added a poll below:

Poll
What turns you off Ryanair the most:
. 1. Michael O'Leary's arch capitalist machismo 20%
. 2. Anti-Trade Union attitudes 40%
. 3. Exclusive support for Boeing planes 0%
. 4. Safety Concerns 10%
. 5. Unfriendly webside and awkward booking process 10%
. 6. Unfriendly/stressful boarding process 0%
. 7. Uncomfortable seats and inadequate legroom 0%
. 8. Excessive/deceptive charges for everything "extra" 0%
. 9. Poor inflight service 0%
. 10. Distance of airport from advertised location 10%
. 11. What other people have said 0%
. 12. Any other reason - please note in comments 10%

Votes: 10
Results | Other Polls
Display:
buying only new, well proven, Boeing airplanes

One more reason to hate 'em.

Reborn? Need to drive a stake through its heart first.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 10:30:00 AM EST
And comparing the ticket to the train ticket (or lunch, or hotel room or anything else) in Switzerland is a rather biased comparison.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 10:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One more reason EU regulators hate them...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 11:44:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:12:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
of the link:

"The C919 will not be as technologically advanced as the A320 and 737, but that's not China's aim for now. It wants to learn how to build a viable and safe aircraft and become more competitive in the long-term. It's learning from what Airbus did to Boeing in the 1970s," said a person at a Western supplier who meets senior Comac officials regularly.

China is taking the long view.  

Prof. Mariana Mazzucato writes in her book The Entrepreneurial State [emphasis added]:

... the role of the government, in the most successful economies, has gone way beyond creating the right infrastructure and setting the rules. It is a leading agent in achieving the type of innovative breakthroughs that allow companies, and economies, to grow, not just by creating the `conditions' that enable innovation.

Governments can do this because they can be concerned with the long term.  They can fund, and are the only source of funding, for the basic and applied research needed to create the businesses and products 20, 30, or even 50 years from the present.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:33:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's more or less what they've done in other high tech areas like computers and cars. First subcontract to major manufacturers at lower cost and build up manufacturing experience and toolsets; second, build copies, and sell them off cheaper to offset brand equity and reputational disadvantages; third, build better, whilst maintaining some cost advatantage to grow market share; fourth, build your own corporate brand, and compete directly in the global marketplace.

It's such a long term, costly process, that only major states or corporates can overcome the major barriers to entry. But I suspect that in ten years time, Comac will be offering roughly equivalent planes to Boeing/Airbus for half the cost, and China will have reached another milestone on the road to Superpowerdom...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 01:12:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd never heard of Comac, but reading the Wikipedia entry on the C919 I learn that Ryanair signed an MoU with Comac in 2011. So perhaps it would be better to say Ryanair haven't ordered any Comac planes...yet.
by Gag Halfrunt on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 11:02:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason I mentioned them was because I thought Ryanair might at least try to play Boeing (and Airbus) off against them in search of a better deal.  Sooner or later Comac will try to break into the EU/USA market and a cost conscious image irrelevant airline like Ryanair seem like an obvious first target.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 12:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the explanation for never buying Airbuses? Are they notoriously inferior in quality/price terms, and nobody else noticed?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 12:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once you've bought your first Boeing and trained all your cabin and maintenance crew to use it, if you only buy Boeing you save on training costs.

In the Neurozone, there can be only one.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 12:21:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you also have a larger maintenance contract to offer to potential suppliers. Most airlines (as far as I am aware) try to standardize on one plane supplier for that reason. Of course the flip side is that Boeing might offer Ryanair a less good price knowing Ryanair is committed to that strategy. Ryanair held out for several years on the last big order in search of a better price from Boeing - and I suspect the latter eventually caved because their order book isn't great in the wake of the Dreamliner problems.

But Ryanair are getting so big now, they probably could get away with having two suppliers without a significant increase in cost/flexibility - but Airbus would have to make a really good offer to justify such a switch and Airbus isn't known for its flexibility.

Ryanair have actively been trying to encourage COMAC into the game, but I suspect decided that's it's just too soon to place a major order for an unproven plane/supplier. It would give all the Ryanair haters just the excuse they need to shun the Airline further.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 12:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ryanair | World Airline News | Page 2

Ryanair's (Dublin) CEO Michael O'Leary told the Financial Times according to this report by Herald.ie that he wants to increase passenger numbers to between 120 million and 130 million over the next 10 years.

The airline is in talks with Boeing, COMAC (China) and Irkut (Russia) about a possible order of 200 to 300 narrow-body airliners.

Ryanair carried 72.1 million passengers in 2010/11. This possible order could double the size of the fleet. Ryanair will operate a fleet of 292 Boeing 737-800s by 2012.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:01:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My apologies for the typos and sometimes awkward phrasing in the initial draft. My internet kept going down and I was worried about losing the whole thing and with other commitments looming I just pressed publish and be damned... Have tried to clear up some of the typos since.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:22:01 PM EST
1, the worst effect of that company... so many european carriers are on the downward spiral to "compete" with them. To the detriment of flyers.

Flying is becoming more and more a chore. Only very frequent flyers still have decent experiences, but even that's gone downhill.

Such a "descent" is not limited to the flight industry, of course.

2, Scrimping on O&M will come back and haunt them.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:33:12 PM EST
Adding: i've refused to fly them from the gitgo.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:35:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, count me amongst those who will never fly the airline again.

Even when I visit Carcassonne, which is a place they fly to more or less exclusively, I would rather catch EasyJet to Toulouse and then train over.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 12:36:43 PM EST


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 01:29:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As for your survey, I answered 12 : All of the above.

I hate the way that they make you feel bad for having flown with them

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 03:54:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Special mention for a bad experience : Madame had a flight booked back from Morocco, and asked me (in France) to do the online check-in for her. I discovered eventually that online check-in was not available for R**air flights out of Morocco, so decided she'd just have to handle it in the old-fashioned way.

When she got to the airport it turned out that her reservation was not "reconfirmed" (in the absence of online checkin, she should have done it by phone or something??) and so she COULDN'T check in. The only way she could get on the plane was to buy her ticket a second time.

R**air, cheap at twice the price.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 04:20:12 PM EST
Did it the small print say anything about reconfirming flights? Usually they cover themselves in some way. It's this practice of taking advantage of people for the slightest mistake that has given them such a bad name. People are worried about checking in and passports and money and keys and getting there on time - they don't need more things to worry about.

Once it Italy we missed the motorway turnoff for the airport. It was very badly signposted because it was a minor airport. It seemed like 50km before the next turn off and we lost nearly an hour. We arrived exactly 40 minutes before flight time and were relieved to find a small queue ahead of us. All were refused travel because it was after the 40 min cutoff point for checking in.

Recently a wheel-chair bound 84 year old aunt of mine decided to change her flight date and asked her daughter to do it for her. Her daughter discovered it was cheaper to book a new flight than pay the "administration fee" for changing the flight date. So she made a new booking but forgot to add in her one item of checked in luggage. On arrival at the airport my Aunt was charged an extra €50 Euro for one bag. Fortunately she had her credit card with her. The check-in staff have zero discretion in the matter.

Irish people generally pride themselves for their friendliness, helpfulness, and flexibility under pressure. Ryanair cuts across those values in such a dramatic way, and that is why Ryanair is such an embarrassment for most people.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 25th, 2013 at 05:21:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Ryanair Reborn? - now with Poll at no extra charge
the upright non-reclining hard seats and garish decor. But these are relatively minor gripes which you can accept as part of the "low cost experience".

While seat maintenance may be cheaper with fixed seats, garish decor is hardly cheaper then a sober choice of colors. I think they are chosen in order to give the customers the feeling that it must be cheap if it looks so crappy. I don't think it is a coincidence that McDonald uses similar colors.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 04:37:13 PM EST
The psychology of colour schemes and brand logos is complex: I could find little explicitly about Ryanair's choices:
The Secret of McDonald's Colors

Yellow = Sun, Life, Energy, Friendly, Innovative etc. . .
Red = Is a color that stimulates the adrenaline glands in the brain. they chose red for this specific purpose. There are other reasons they chose the red, BUT the major one is the chemicals it creates in the brain.

Now ask yourself this, WHO does Mcdonald's market to? Apes? Dogs? Adults? Children? They have built their empire on directing ads at kids. In fact, those little toys they hand out have done well for them. Enough about that though.

What colors do children respond to? PRIMARY COLORS. So there we have the red. PLUS, adults respond to red as well. (The adult is the action taker) Who has the money to pay for little Johnny's lunch? So of course, they need to focus on mom or dad in the process. RED is a call to action, AND it also stimulates the appetite.

Ryanair is more strong hard blue and yellow - both primary colours - accentuated by hard plastics rather than soft coverings for seats etc.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 05:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So why are they rebranding to different colours?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:09:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:25:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MacDonalds.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McDonald's Changes Color Scheme of Iconic Arches - CBS News
McDonald's (MCD) restaurants across Europe are removing the red background behind the golden arches logo and replacing it with green. The change is supposed to make customers associate the company with a commitment to the environment.

"We want to clarify our responsibility for the preservation of natural resources. In the future we will put an even larger focus on that," McDonald's Germany VP Holger Beeck said in a statement.

The green arches are only appearing in Europe, of course; for some reason, most major chains tend to be more active on both the environment and animal well-being on the other side of the Atlantic. It's hard to imagine Americans responding well to such a dramatic change in the familiar, ubiquitous McDonald's logo.

Then again, the Irish Times referenced the U.S. president in its own peculiar explanation of why green was been chosen: "Colour psychologists suggested that McDonald's red was the most likely in the spectrum to stimulate heart rate and appetite - green, meanwhile, is viewed as the colour of hope, the 'Barack Obama' of the colour spectrum."


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They also have blue in Israel which means either Kosher or non-Kosher (if you care, you've probably figured out which is which). Do they have similar colour schemes in India?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Oct 29th, 2013 at 08:08:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fixed seats also have the advantage that they don't encourage the dumbass sitting in front of you to further crush your already insufficient legroom by reclining.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Nov 21st, 2013 at 07:12:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 28th, 2013 at 06:23:32 PM EST
Ryanair shares fall 10% as airline issues profit warning - Tourism News | Travel & Tourism Industry News | The Irish Times - Mon, Nov 04, 2013

Low-cost airline Ryanair has issued another profit warning, lowering its full year profit guidance from €570 million to €510 million, as fares continus to fall.

Fares fell by 2 per cent in the six months to September 2013, due to factors such as the "summer heatwave in northern Europe, French ATC strikes in June, and weaker sterling".

Yea right. Have other airlines effected by those factors issued similar profit warnings? It's always somebody else's fault with Ryanair.: The airline with the juvenile mentality.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 4th, 2013 at 03:54:12 AM EST
My guess is the contrary : the share price fall is the result of the announcement of "normalisation". The market can't see the percentage in that. Cheap and nasty is what they do well.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Nov 4th, 2013 at 05:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Website writer apologises to Ryanair - Tourism News | Travel & Tourism Industry News | The Irish Times - Sat, Nov 09, 2013
The court was told earlier this year that ASFKAP made a posting on Pprune, (the so-called rumour network for professional pilots) saying: "Can we not have a separate forum for Ryanair narrow escapes, near misses, airworthiness incidents and bullying and harassment issues?"


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 10th, 2013 at 12:08:20 PM EST


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